Steve McQueen on 12 Years a Slave
I love Steve McQueen, and having seen all three of his major films, I think he is a gifted director. While IMO each of his films suffer from the exact same flaw -- always with the scene that hits you over the head with such force that you are pulled out of the film momentarily -- taken as a whole they are consistently crazy well-done.
[frequent McQueen collaborator Michael] Fassbender told me that McQueen “loves human beings,” even terrible ones. “The great thing about Steve, in terms of looking at characters and telling stories, is that he doesn’t judge any of it. It all is what it is. Through observation you try to gain some kind of understanding, as opposed to judgment.” He calls McQueen’s approach “almost journalistic.”
Fassbender famously portrayed Bobby Sands in McQueen's first major film, Hunger. I was talking with a couple of friends the other night about this film, and they were a bit condemning of it as a sympathetic portrayal of Sands, leading one toward a sympathetic portrayal of the IRA. What I tried to convey in that conversation Fassbender says so well. The aim of McQueen's depiction of not only Sands, but both Fassbender's tragic character in Shame and his monstrous Edwin Epps in 12 Years..., is observation -- terrible, magnified observation -- that we can hope leads to some kind of self-reflection about what lurks inside us, our multifaceted humanity.